Monday, May 16, 2011

GLORYfication: Annelie Solis

As some of you might know, photography is another one of my passions and I took an Intro. to Photography course in my first semester at the University of the West Indies, because I didn't want to read my manual and wanted someone to just explain how to work it.  Unfortunately, the instructor stressed the importance of reading the manual, which I still have yet to do (I've perused it ok!).  One of our assignments was to do a Power Point presentation on a photographer of our choice.  I chose to do mine on Annelie Solis, because she's a woman, she's local, and I admire her work.

I did an e-mail interview with her, as follows:

Ok so first let's get the basic bio questions out of the way:
  • When and where were you born?
April 25th, 1988 in Trinidad
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Where do you reside now?
  • Where have your traveled to?
So far only Grenada, Panama and New York City but I'm going to go everywhere.
  • And your ancestral background, if you feel to disclose that.
I'm not even sure... Irish, Venezuelan, French... My grandparents and great grandparents were all born in Trinidad. Or the majority of them were at least.

"Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought her back" questions:
  • What inspired you to become a photographer?
I honestly can't even remember! I think I was always kind of fascinated by it but I really can't remember when it stopped being an interest and became an actual career possibility. Probably when I started browsing some of the beautiful photography online on websites like deviantArt etc.
  • How did you learn?  If self taught, how did you go about it?  Have you actually read your camera manual cover to cover?
I am self-taught for the most part and I did read most of my manual when I first got my camera, because photography was entirely new to me, but it's so had to understand all the terminology if you've never heard it before. So naturally, Google became my saviour! I looked at countless tutorials and forums etc. but there's no way to learn like good, old-fashioned trial and error.
  • Do you have any favorite photographers? Local, as well as, International? Have you tried to emmulate their style?
Tim Walker can do no wrong in my eyes. 
People have told me that some of my pieces are reminiscent of his (makes my heart leap! haha), only he probably has a never-ending budget and I just work with what I have.
I think that style is an interesting thing; It's not something you can go out in search for. It just flows through you and shines through your work. So, to answer your question: yes, I have tried to, but only when I stopped trying to do things people had done before and really focused on what I loved about what I was doing did I really find that I'd created a style for my work. 
I really love and appreciate the work of most local photographers; they all have styles that they've made their own.

  • Do you have a mentor?  If not, who (if anyone) critiques your work?
No, I've never had a mentor in the photography field. The person who's come closest to being a mentor to me is probably Eric Curtis. He's a brilliant LA photographer who I was lucky enough to apprentice with for a week in 2008. He never critiqued my work or anything like that but he gave me a lot of advice about lighting equipment and working in the photography field. 
I usually critique my own work because I know in my heart what is a good work of art and what isn't. If people don't think what I think is a work of art is a work of art I really couldn't give less of a shit. To each their own.

  • What was your first camera?  And how did you acquire it (ie. gift, self bought)?
Canon Digital Rebel Xti. Or Camie, as I affectionately refer to her. I bought it at the end of 2007, with the earnings from a small solo painting exhibition in More Vino.
  • What camera do you shoot with now and why?
Camie, because no one will buy her from me so I can get a new one! Haha, no... it's really a great little camera for someone who's now starting out and up to now I get the results I want with it. But I am hoping for an upgrade soon. 
I also use an Olympus OM-1 Film SLR, which I was lucky to enough to happen upon last Christmas. My aunt found it in the back of a closet and gave it to me to see if it works! Which it does... perfectly. :)
And an old Polaroid SX-70.

  • What kind of equipment do you use besides your camera?
I have two Alienbees strobe lights (recommended to me by Eric Curtis), a couple of coloured gels (given to me by Eric Curtis) and a reflector/diffuser.
  • What inspires and/or influences your work?
Any and everything. All the beauty in the world and all that I have the ability to imagine.
  • How do view the photography industry in Trinidad & Tobago?  Do you think we have an adequate forum and appreciation for it?
Yes, I think this country has an unlimited wealth of brilliant artists and the art scene is only getting bigger. In the end art is art, whether there's and industry or a market or an appreciation for it. If you create art with a love for creating in your heart, it really doesn't matter if there's an adequate audience for it.
  • Where do you develop your photos?  Have you ever slaved in a dark room over a photo?
Not as yet, but that's the next endeavor! Currently I just take my photos to Photo World. One hour printing yay! 
  • Is there any particular subject you like to work with?  Has it changed from when you first started shooting?  Have you ever done the cliche macro flower shots?
I love to photograph people, and I always have. I suppose there's always an element of fantasy in my work, it's just what appeals to me for now.
I have done cliché flower macros! haha, but only for experiment's sake... and because flowers are fascinating to me. These little natural works of art that we take for granted everyday. Come on... the earth created these things. I feel like people need to take in flowers more... haha.

  • How would you define your style?
I don't even know... conceptual, storybook, fantastical...? 
  • Is it safe to say you like to experiment with motion (shutter speed)?  What other techniques do you like to explore?
Playing around with shutter speed is always fun, there's a lot of techniques and things that I've played around with that I haven't really gotten a chance to incorporate into my work as yet. Now that I shoot with film I've been experimenting with putting things over the lens for effect... metal strainers, coloured plastic, breathing on it for a misty effect... etc.
  • What is your definition of beauty?
Life. There's beauty in every single detail of life, I can't even describe it. Just look around, experience it. You know what I mean.
  • How was shooting in NYC compared to shooting in Trinidad?
My fingers went numb. Haha, New York is beautiful in a very different way to Trinidad. Most of the pictures I took in NYC you can see are very different from my usual style. I just wanted to capture my experience being there.  
  • What was your first paying job?  How was that experience, as well as, your experience working with Scortch and TTSPCA?
I'm not entirely sure, probably some commissioned portraits or something. I'm always so nervous on paying shoots! I usually just wing it and it turns out alright. 
  • How was the experience with your exhibition at Amour Et Cafe go?  Did it surpass your expectations? Or not..?
The exhibition was great! I couldn't have asked for more. I hope to have an exhibition in an art gallery some time soon.
  • How long does it usually take you to produce one piece from conceptualizing to shooting to editing to printing?
It usually depends on what the idea is. Some take a lot less resources than others so I'm able to go out and shoot them quicker. Others require things that are a little harder to come across (an old rowboat?!) so it takes a bit longer to get everything together. When I'm really attached to an idea I get things done sooner. After shooting I'll normally go home and start editing right away (I'm eager) or send the film for developing as soon as I can.

Photoshop questions:
  • How important is Photoshop to you? And to what extent do you use it?
Photoshop is just another medium to me. Sometimes retouching is necessary but I was much more dependent on it when I first started shooting. Now I'm veering away from it more and more. 
  • What do you have to say to the purists who condemn Photoshop usage?
To each his own. Like I said, photoshop is merely another medium. Digital art/photo-manipulation and natural photography are as similar and different as acrylic and watercolour. It's about preference. 
  • Have you ever shot a photo and NOT retouched it?
All of my digital photos have at least minimal retouching, whether it be upping the contrast, tweaking the colours or just playing around with effect filters. I don't feel that it's essential, but I like the look.
  • How did you become so Photoshop savvy?
My sister had done a course in photoshop a while ago so I had the program on my computer already, and someone who knew at least a little bit to teach me the basics. From there I just learned by experimentation, with the help of online tutorials etc.
  • When shooting and/or Photoshopping, do you see the end product in mind? Or is it sometimes plain old experimentation, luck, and/or chance?
It depends on the piece, really. Sometimes I know exactly what I'm doing and sometimes I straight up don't have a clue. Usually if it involves too much editing, the picture is just a failure anyway.
  • I see you've recently shot with film, how was that experience?  Which do you prefer and why?
I've always loved the graininess and purity of film. I'm so excited to have found that old film camera. I never know what to expect when I send photos to develop and I'm always surprised and thrilled with results. I really can't get over it. I love film right now! But I think it was good to have learned digital first, so I have a clue about things like aperture, shutter speed etc. etc. 

  • What advice do you have to all the newbies trying to learn the craft, besides "practice makes perfect"?
Haha, well... practice makes perfect really is an eternal truth. How about "never underestimate the wealth of knowledge available through the internet." Seriously.
  • How about to the ones trying to get published in T&T and possibly world wide?
Stop trying to get published. Do what you love. Your love for your craft will shine though and it will be impossible for your work not to be seen.
  • Any special tricks of the trade you'd like to share with us?
Hmmm... I don't know if there's anything I can tell you that you won't learn for yourself if you're really determined. 

Personal Interest questions:
  • How as it working with Heidi Walcott? (I have an unnatural fascination with her)
Haha... straight up, she's crazy! Heidi is an amazing person to work with. She's so full of energy and she's great at what she does. 
  • PNM or UNC? (Kiddinggggg, don't answer that!)
  • Would you do T/F work with upcoming MUA's whose initials are MMS?  No, but seriously, do you do trade work at all?
Oh yes OF COURSE! I enjoy shoots so much more when it's a collaboration of creative people. It's so much more rewarding to love your finished product than to have some bills to show for it. Anytime you wana do a shoot, call me! :)

My "blonde" question:
  • How do your pronounce your name? Anny-lie, Ann-lie, none of the above..?
Haha, Anna-lee.

My Pics (pun intended):
Simple Pleasures: We built our own castles
  • What the heck is a vagabond? And a cybersync transmitter?  You don't have to answer that, I'm sure Google will do! Haha!
Haha, this is a vagabond: It's an external battery, basically. So I can power my lights without electricity.
And the transmitters are what send the signal from the camera to the lights so they can flash when the shutter is pressed. 

  • Location?
Macqueripe. Love it there!
  • Inspiration?
The entire series was based on the simplicity of finding pleasure in our youth. Remember when you used to make blanket forts in your living room and to you it was this magical forest dwelling? How wild our imaginations used to run! And how difficult it is to find such simple pleasures in our adulthood...
In the morning we always leave behind our dream (the one with the boat)
Is that pure sunlight? And/or photoshopping as well?
A strobe coming from the back right created the effect of sunlight, and I added a gradient overlay in photoshop to push the effect.

Poetry for the Universe:
  • Inspiration for set?
I don't even know. Just everything. We see the sun everyday, but how often do we stop and really appreciate it? This big beautiful energy source that sustains all life on this planet. The way the moon reflects its light; the appearance and heat of a flame; the uniqueness of every single tree and flower. All these everyday miracles. I just felt like they needed their own tributes.
  • How did you feel about Ode to the sun being featured in a Turkish Magazine?  And Ode to a Flame in a Mexican Magazine?  How do you feel about being featured, period!
It's always exciting to be approached by a publication! It's interesting to know that people in Turkey or Mexico or Dubai or wherever have seen my work. It makes me feel more connected with artists all around the world.

  • What was the shooting and editing process like?
It feels so long ago I can hardly remember! This was an experimental one; photography was still very new to me. I wanted the effect of fabric flowing underwater so I had my brother hold a pane of glass (from a large picture frame) over the surface of a pool while my lovely model twirled around underwater. 
Strange, I know. I'm pretty determined to achieve what it is I'm envisioning with minimal resources, haha.
This was one of those photos were I didn't have a clue what I was doing in photoshop so I just kept going and going until I liked what I saw. It actually makes me a little uncomfortable that I had to retouch so much. 

  • How cool is it to be unsure about a photo and have it featured in a magazine?! (rhetorical question haha)
Haha, it's pretty cool.

The Bird Keeper's Laments:
  • Location?
I get so lucky with locations! This was shot outside my aunt's house in Couva. 
  • Inspiration?
Really I don't know haha... It just came to me!

The Words of Witches:
  • How did you achieve that awesome lighting effect?
Haha... aw, thanks! The light was created by candles and I held a metal strainer in front of the lens to create the criss-cross kind of light flare. 

And then she drifted:
My favourite!  One of those concepts where I'm like: Why didn't I think of that?!
  • Inspiration?
Haha, I love this one a lot too. Honestly, I love the fantastical idea of things being where they shouldn't be. It's a bit of a metaphor for the world we live in, everything is backwards and we carry on thinking it's okay, without realizing that we're not actually getting anywhere. 
  • Did you go down the islands with intentions of doing this shoot or was it impromptu?
This might have been one of my most planned and organized shoots to date! 
  • Where'd you get the boat from?
I had this concept for so long, but I just couldn't figure out where to get a boat from. I went to a bunch of boat yards and marinas to look at old fishing boats but I couldn't find anything like the one in my head. I got so lucky with this one! I told a friend of mine I was looking for an old rowboat and he mentioned that a friend of ours had a dilapidated old one at his island home. Honestly I nearly cried when I saw how perfect this one was! :)
  • Is the lighting natural or Photoshop?
Strobe to the back right with a yellow gel over it.

The eternal question of the flightless flamingo:
  • How much of this is Photoshop?
The distorted lens effect and the flamingo! Haha, and I played around with the colours a little bit in there too.

  • Would you be so kind to place the photos I've chosen in chronological order? (I'm including a few photos from NYC, TTSPCA, Scortch, and Heidi [can't forget Heidi] as well) OR is it safe to say that the order and dates you have them in Flickr is chronological enough?
Yeah the dates on flickr are in order.
  • Where do you get your models? And would you do T/F work with with girls whose initials are MMS? (Just Kidding! Lol!)
Sometimes I just need a certain look for an idea, and if I see someone who has that look I'll ask them if they'd be interested in modeling for me. It's sounds super creepy, I know... haha, but you gotta do what you gotta do! And amazingly I don't think anyone has ever turned me down.
  • How do you feel you've grown as a Photographer?
I'm just enjoying the journey!
  • Where do you see yourself going with Photography in the future?
I don't know. I'm so intrigued by anything artistic, there's so much I want to experiment with. I love my photography for now, but I really have no idea where it'll take me! :)

Okay, I hope that's enough info. Again, I'm SO sorry for not replying sooner! I hope I didn't make you fail!
By the way I'd love to do some T/F work with you, message me whenever! :)
Also, I don't think you can take pictures of flicker, so let me know which ones you want and I'll send them to you.

Peace and Love!

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